JUST WHAT I NEED
By John Thomas Tuft
I sat down to write down everything that I am not
Delineate my weaknesses, where I’m incomplete
I invited my shadows to dance with me
Pirouetting toward the sun until they’re lost to the heat.
In ’69 I was eighteen and just off the chopper in DaNang
Carrying my rifle and a bandoleer of fears
Wading through rice paddies toward a village unknown
Ready to kill or be killed while drowning in tears.
They were lying in wait and opened up all around
Firefly flashes and rounds passing with a snap
We radioed for help from the 155s in the rear
To rain down death on the nameless spot of the map.
Through the hellscape of fires we moved on at last
I rounded a hooch and stared a young boy in the face
Both his arms had been blown away by the bombs
His eyes begging to understand this merciless place.
The lieutenant hollered that we had to move on
I was captured by the innocent horror in those eyes
But in that moment all hope seemed to be lost
And I finished him off much to my shocked surprise.
So, as we move into the season promising peace
And the singing of angels proclaiming holy seed
I still carry that boy’s eyes with me everywhere
A candle against the darkness now is just what I need.
(Adapted from true accounts of Vietnam veterans)